Did you know that the exact same bean will taste different depending on where it was grown? The flavor of coffee beans depends on the soil, altitude, and minerals in the ground. The differences are so acute that even inside one specific country there can be all sorts of variations. Some coffee connoisseur spend their life traveling and trying coffee, because no matter how much they’ve drank there surely is a type of coffee they have not tried.
Coffee is more similar to wine than you may initially think. Coffee regions play a similar role to wine regions, given that fermentation and roasting doesn’t change much among countries nor companies, but the region where the beans and grapes are grown do change the flavor and quality of the product. Certain regions of the world have proven to yield exceptional coffee and they are now protected in order to ensure that this exceptional coffee will be grown for generations to come.
Before the coffee beans are packed and shipped outside of the farms, they are roasted and brewed in order to taste the quality of the harvest. This is not just an opinion of “Sounds good. This is yummy.” The personal sampling knows well the standard of quality the bean must meet in order to be sold under the region’s label. When the harvest does not meet the quality standards, the farm loses money as it cannot sell the coffee for what a good bean is worth.
But companies like Starbucks have taught us that bad coffee is still worth something, as they buy these low quality beans and use them for their over-flavored frappes and lattes. To the unknown taste bud, this is still coffee, and Starbucks has found a profitable way to market lower quality beans.
Next time you grab a coffee bag and read its label, recognize that it took hard work and dedication on part of the coffee farmers to ensure that this coffee is sold at the price and under the label that best represents them. Some people already know which region they enjoy the most. Whether that is coffee grown near volcanoes, or coffee grown in lower areas of mountains. To truly love and know your coffee, you must treat it like a personal friend and start by the bean’s origin story.